John has done some futures work and thought critically about both early warning and “wild card” surprises. See our reviews of his books in the Reviews section. Below is a piece he did for the OSS Conference.
If the spooks can’t analyze their own data, why call it intelligence?
For more than a year now, there has been a deluge of stories and op-ed pieces about the failure of the American intelligence community to detect or prevent the September 11, 2001, massacre. Nearly all of these accounts have expressed astonishment at the apparent incompetence of America’s watchdogs.
I’m astonished that anyone’s astonished.
The visual impairment of our multitudinous spookhouses has long been the least secret of their secrets. Their shortcomings go back 50 years, when they were still presumably efficient but somehow failed to detect several million Chinese military “volunteers” heading south into Korea. The surprise attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were only the most recent oversight disasters. And for service like this we are paying between $30 billion and $50 billion a year. Talk about a faith-based initiative.
After a decade of both fighting with and consulting to the intelligence community, I’ve concluded that the American intelligence system is broken beyond repair, self-protective beyond reform, and permanently fixated on a world that no longer exists.
Arnie Donahue was the only person in the Office of Management and Budget with ALL of the CODEWORD compartments. He knew where every dollar was going, at the time $30 billion or so. When he stood up and said “There is PLENTY of Money for Open Source,” there was an ambient chill. Everyone wanted to know what Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) was, but no one wanted to pay for it “out of hide.” He and his boss at the time, Don Gessaman, were instrumental in establishing in the year 2000, at the direction of Sean O’Keefe, Code M320 for all DoD expenditures on OSINT, a time bomb that is about to explode (or a bill that is about to come due, as it were).
Paul Strassman, CIO of Xeroc before becoming the Defense Information Officer, was an open-minded person who encouraged iconoclosts to submit their ideas. He did listen. What we have all learned over time is that organizations that do not have adaptive cultures will always allow “corporatism” to create fatal grid-lock. We knew all we needed to know in 1991-1992 to change the world forever, using information as a global strategic asset. See REF A and RE B in References. Here is his take on it in 1992.
Phi Beta Iota: We are indebted to Dr. Hamilton Bean, who discovered this document in the course of doing research for his superb book, the first authentic book on open source intelligence in the context of a secret world that would rather be blind, deaf, and dumb, as long as it could do so as expensively as possible, and of course with impunity.